By Angel Nuñez
I learned a whole lot from my Dad and I am pretty sure most of you feel the same way. It all depends what your interests and endeavors were, whether it was learning to use a machete and that was it or you had greater ambitions.
I will be the first to admit that my dad did not have the most pleasant personality, but he was super witty, very dexterous, and for some reason had tons of friends. In short he worked the coconut plantations, did subsistence fishing, learned carpentry, did commercial fishing, ran a successful saloon and grocery store, and proud to say educated himself up to standard six level in elementary school, like most of our parents in the 1920’s up to the 1950’s. He could read and write both Spanish and English quite fluently.
This Sunday while at church, I noticed the calm Caribbean Sea with currents running from the sea shore towards the reef and small waves rolling without crashing on the coral reef. I remembered one of the first lessons I learned from my dad and it is that with these northerly there is plenty of fish, especially snapper and shads in the lagoon. Therefore I went to the lagoon seaside to check on the fishermen and sure enough I got my load of shads and by 12 noon I was enjoying a delicious Sunday meal of fish.
While cleaning the fish I recollected my first lesson at not breaking the fish roe. I actually got a little shove on the shoulder with a loud yell. I was not supposed to place my knife perpendicularly or into the belly of the fish. I was to run my knife parallel to the belly and gently cut until the guts were exposed and then I was to separate the roe from the intestines and all the rest.
The gills of the fish were bright red and I remembered my dad telling me that when I went to buy fish to make sure the gills were like that because it guaranteed fresh fish. My dad also taught me that if you fried a fish egg that had been ruptured it would scatter all over the frying pan and be soaked with oil- not good.
How about sharpening a knife? I always used to beg my dad whenever I was helping him to clean fish on the table at the beach. Finally he said, “Well, Angel, it is not that I don’t want to do it, but am I to clean your bottom all your life? Come on; just run the knife flat against the sharpening stone and in the end you run it in circles. Be sure to wet your knife and concentrate because you don’t want to cut off your finger. Thank God up until today I can clean fish pretty fast and still have all ten fingers.
My dad also taught me a lot of carpentry. I began by learning to handle a hand saw and soon I was building up to ten wood lobster traps per day. In the process he also taught me how to sharpen a hand saw, a hand plane, and a chisel. Up until this day I use these skills frequently and the other day I taught an experienced carpenter working for me how to sharpen his circular blade for his electric saw. I also learned from my dad how to handle a machete, and how to use a pair of shears to cut sheet metal and zinc roofing.
In the sea my dad also gave me some practical lessons. Whenever you notice a lobster trap that is grayish and covered with mud or muck, it is empty of lobsters. The trap that was dark or looked clean had a good catch. My dad also taught me that you never take out all the catch of lobsters from a trap. You always leave at least one, a small or medium-sized one so that it would act as a welcome greeter to other lobsters. I always grumbled at that fact but my dad patiently assured me that it pays off.
The next day when we checked that same trap it had five or six lobsters and he would smile proudly. But the one best lesson I learned from my dad was honesty. When we ran across a lobster trap that was full of lobster, I was eager to bring it up into our boat, but my dad would say.”No Angel, that trap is not mine. It is for my neighbor in the sea.” This lesson on honesty I never did forget up to this day. If my dad ever took something that did not belong to him, it was possible, but he never did it in front of me. No matter what, he is my hero.
25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today -Lala’s Store -Chico’s Meat Shop -Pampered Paws -Ambergris Jade -San Pedro BTB Office -Aquarious Salon (Kim) -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush -Richies Stationery -San Pedrano’s Stationery
Contact the Author at: [email protected]